Today in My History2000: Playing Hookey
2001: Sweating with the Oldie
2002: Dirty Laundry
2003: Fortunes of War
2004: Good News, Bad News
2005: Eau d'Esbilac
2006: Hit the Ground Running
2007: The Adjustment Process
2008: Hopping Down the Bunny Trail
IN MY OPINION
Books Read in 2009
"The Thunderbolt Kid"
Recipes for Cousins Day Drinks
VIDEO OF THE DAY / WEEK / WHATEVER
and on You Tube
24 March 2009
A friend mentioned that her grandchildren will be turning 16 this year and will be getting cars soon. She didn't say that their parents would be buying them cars, but I assume that is what is going to happen. That seems to be what happens to a lot of kids, getting cars from their parents when they become of driving age.
I admit that I always feel a little envious about kids having their own cars. I never had a car of my own. It's not that I ever went without access to a car. I drove my parents' car when I was living at home. I don't remember my peers having cars that their parents bought for them either. We just didn't do that in those days, I guess.
I didn't need a car when I was in Berkeley, and since we've been married, Walt and I have shared cars. For many years we had two cars, a big one for taking the kids everywhere and a little one for when it was just the two of us going and we didn't need a gas guzzler, but there was never a car I could call "mine."
I did, for six weeks, have Walt's 1953 Rambler (which he bought for himself) when he was in boot camp for the Air Force reserves, before we were married.
That car hated me. It purred whenever Walt got behind the wheel, and it fell apart whenever I got behind the wheel. The most drunk I ever was was after a particularly bad episode with the car. I had taken it to a brake shop to get something minor done. They recognized a rube when they saw one and managed to talk me into a very expensive, very unnecessary repair, which took all of my savings. Walt called from Texas to yell at me. "What are you doing to my car?" was the first thing he said to me.
After that conversation, I was so upset that I got very drunk. I was ushering for a Kingston Trio concert on campus that night and have no recollection of how I got there or how I got home. All I remember is trying to stand upright in the auditorium and being so dizzy I think I just left. But though I drove the car for six weeks, it was always Walt's car, never mine.
We never gave our kids cars either. When you're a kid growing up, you have this vision of all the wonderful things you're going to do as a parent, and when you become a parent and the financial reality hits, you realize that you can't do all those things after all. So when our kids got cars, of necessity they were vehicles they bought themselves. Before that they drove the family van, "The Jolly Green Giant" and Walt warned them that they should be sure to do everything right because we had the only van like it in town and everybody recognized our van, so if they were doing something they shouldn't be doing, we would eventually hear about it! (One of the perks of living in a small-ish town, which Davis was in those days.)
Jeri has always been a bike person, even now that she lives in Boston, but she eventually bought herself a truck when she decided to move back east to go to school. It's a 1989 Toyota pickup she bought in 1997 ("before trucks had names"). She has driven it back and forth across the country a couple of times and still drives now.
Ned and his friend Greg bought a car together after Ned graduated from high school. We told Ned to be sure that there was insurance on the car before he got behind the wheel. He assured me there was. But there wasn't. The insurance had recently lapsed and so when the brakes failed and Ned caused a 3-car collision (thank goodness there were no injuries!), we insisted that he had to pay the bill himself.
Paul didn't buy his own car, but he inherited my father's orange Pinto station wagon when he died. I don't remember if that was because he was the only kid without a car when my father died or whether my father had specifically left it to him, but somehow that car became Paul's and was as much of a laughing stock as Walt's Rambler was when he was Paul's age. What 18 year old kid has a Pinto station wagon, of all things? Like our "Jolly Green Giant," it was quite recognizable in this town!
Tom's first car was a truck he rebuilt himself. I wrote recently about Tom and his truck and how I would come home each day and find Tom with the truck in the carport, parts all around him, and a "how to" book open nearby, looking like I would look if I were in the kitchen testing out a new recipe. I wrote about how proud I was of him when he got it all put together and turned the key on and the damn thing worked. He has since told me how badly the truck ran, but I'm still proud thinking about his ability to take apart a motor and put it back together, with only a few pieces left over, and have the thing actually work. I couldn't do that if my life depended on it!
Dave bought a car from a friend and ran it into a ditch within the first month that he had it. Then he got the bright idea that he might be able to find a car like it to use for spare parts so he could fix it. Not only did he find a car like it, he found a car exactly like it. Same model, same year, even the same color. He had both cars parked in the driveway while he worked to use the non-working car to fix the banged up car. Again, something I wouldn't dream of doing. (David later inherited a very old Toyota that my mother and her husband had bought for a Dutch relative who was staying with them for 6 months. They called it "The Tomato Can" and we moved it here after he died. Adding insult to injury, the car was broken into and the new stereo system ripped out of it two days after his funeral.)
I wonder if we do a disservice to kids by buying them a car. I wonder if they appreciate it more if they have to work to be able to afford the car and they learn about insurance by having to pay the consequences when they get into trouble without it. At least that was the way we felt about it.
But I'll admit that if someone had given ME a shiny new car
(or even a shiny USED car) when I turned 16, I certainly would have been excited about it!
PHOTO OF THE DAY
The Plymouth my parents had when I was born
MILES TO NOWHERE: 103 miles